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May, 2017:

Reduction in tobacco taxes to be a disaster: PIMA

Doctors resent government’s plan to make smoking ‘easier’

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/206442-Reduction-in-tobacco-taxes-to-be-a-disaster-PIMA

Reacting to a statement made by the Special Assistant to the PM on Revenue, who has expressed that high taxes on cigarettes encourage smuggling which, in turn, costs billions to the exchequer, the president of Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMS) Wednesday suggested that if such a cause and effect relationship is logical, then the government should bring heroin, hashish and other menaces in the open market as a commercial commodity as well, and earn huge income through taxes.

“The government should be ashamed for increasing the prices of basic commodities like bread, fruits, milk, petrol, electricity, etc. and reducing the prices of dangerous items like tobacco,” the PIMA chief stated. He pointed out that Pakistan has one of the largest populations of tobacco users in the world, with over 22 million adults smoking cigarettes, ‘huqqa’ or ‘biri’ and millions more using smokeless tobacco products, including ‘gutka,’ ‘naswar,’ and ‘paan.’ Over 100,000 deaths are attributed to tobacco use each year from lung and oral cancers, strokes, heart and respiratory diseases.

Research has shown that increase in tobacco prices leads to a decrease in the number of smokers in a given community, one of the most effective of many strategies to curb tobacco use. “Here, our government is going to do exactly the opposite: make it easier to buy cigarette. While it may not matter for the richer strata of the society, even a small price increase matters a lot for the poor and lower middle class. It is this group unfortunately that is farthest away from any sort of health education, health care and economic benefits when it comes to illness that inevitably stems from tobacco use,” the PIMA president pointed out.

A research study on tobacco taxation in Pakistan, conducted jointly by FBR, World Bank, University of Toronto, Johns Hopkins University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Beaconhouse National University, concluded that a uniform specific excise tax of Rs31.2 per pack of 20 cigarettes, could reduce overall cigarette consumption by 7.5 per cent, increase tax revenues by Rs27.2 billion, leading to over half a million users quitting and reducing premature deaths among current adult smokers by over 180,000, while also preventing 725,000 youth from taking up smoking.

Only a week ago, the Minister of State for Health Saira Afzal had recommended an increase in the Federal Excise Duty on lower slab of all brands of cigarettes from the current Rs32.98 to Rs44 per pack of 20 cigarettes.

Indonesian teachers group declares anti-tobacco stance

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day on May 31, Indonesia’s largest teachers group signed on Wednesday a declaration to underline the role of educators in supporting measures for tobacco control.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/24/indonesian-teachers-group-declares-anti-tobacco-stance.html

Created by the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI), the declaration consists of six points, which include teachers’ commitment to “protect students from the dangers of smoking” and “oppose CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] campaigns from the tobacco industry.”

Teachers also called on the government to create a comprehensive tobacco control regulations to curb cigarette consumption.

“Teachers have to be role models for their pupils by not smoking […] Exemplary acts by teachers are very strategic in the [anti-tobacco] campaign,” PGRI chairwoman Unifah Rosyidi said at the declaration’s signing event in Kuningan, South Jakarta, on Wednesday.

The event was organized by the National Commission on Tobacco Control (Komnas PT), a coalition of organizations that has been staunchly campaigning for tobacco related issues in Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest tobacco consumers.

Komnas PT chairman Prijo Sidipratomo welcomed the declaration, saying that it was in line with one of PGRI’s missions to support the country’s development.

“Some 25 percent of students’ daily time is spent at school, which highlights the role of teachers in shaping their way of life,” Prijo said. (rin)

Cuba Updates its Regulations Related to Tobacco Consumption

Updating the existing regulations to control smoking in public places is part of Cuba”s campaign to celebrate World No Tobacco Day, to be held on May 31.

http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=13257&SEO=cuba-updates-its-regulations-related-to-tobacco-consumption

The head of the Department of School Health at the Ministry of Education (Mined), Yanira Gomez, reminded at a press conference held in this capital that since 1974 there is a regulation that prohibits smoking in institutions and state entities, including schools.

The regulations are designed to be effective, taking into account the particularities of each educational system; and despite the existing literature, it is also necessary to promote initiatives that contribute, from the methodology to the stipulated in the legal framework already established, said Gómez.

World No Tobacco Day was established by the World Health Organization and its partners in order to highlight the health risks associated with smoking and to advocate for effective policies to reduce its consumption.

This year’s campaign aims to mobilize the main social actors, as well as adolescent and young children, in the fight against exposure to tobacco smoke and in terms of sustainable development.

Finnish biotech firm claims breakthrough in smoking intervention

Biohit reveals that it received hundreds of enquiries following the publication of the results of a medical trial confirming that its Acetium lozenge is an effective, non-addictive means to quit smoking.

The Helsinki-based biotechnology firm also saw its share price jump by 7.4 per cent on the Helsinki Stock Exchange on Monday.

http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/business/14775-finnish-biotech-firm-claims-breakthrough-in-smoking-intervention.html

“We’ve received an astonishing number of contacts and enquiries – not only from Finland but in fact more from outside Finland,” Semi Korpela, the chief executive of the biotechnology firm, says to Uusi Suomi.

He believes the high interest in the results can be attributed primarily to two factors: first, because the active substance was shown to cause no side-effects and, second, because the active substance is neither addictive nor a a nicotine replacement.

“The efficacy is comparable to nicotine replacement therapy,” he said in a press release on Monday.

Kari Syrjänen, the chief medical director at Biohit, described the results of the second smoking intervention study as “a breakthrough in the development of smoking intervention methods”.

The intervention study confirmed that the lozenge is an effective tool in assisting the cessation of smoking due to its capability to absorb acetaldehyde derived from cigarette smoke in saliva, thus potentially reducing the effects of acetaldehyde in maintaining smoking addiction. Acetaldehyde has been labelled as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study was adequately powered to confirm the results of the first intervention study and their statistical significance, according to the press release from Biohit.

Korpela reveals that the biotechnology firm will now begin re-branding and re-packaging the Acetium lozenge. The product, he adds, has already been available in web-shops but has yet been marketed as a smoking cessation aid due to lack of proof of its efficacy.

After the re-packaging and other preparations have been completed, the lozenge will be made available both domestically and globally, he says. “There are still plenty of smokers in the world. There are large smoking countries in Asia, as well as in Europe and the Middle East. There’s quite a few of them. Why should we rule out anything?” says Korpela.

CIGARETTE FILTERS MAY INCREASE LUNG CANCER RISK

A study’s authors argue that tiny ventilation holes in virtually all cigarettes sold today are creating a new health risk.

http://ewn.co.za/2017/05/23/cigarette-filters-may-increase-lung-cancer-risk

Cigarette filters, introduced decades ago to reduce the amount of tar smokers inhale, also alter other properties of smoke and smoking in a way that raises the risk of lung cancer, researchers say.

In a review of research on changes in lung cancer rates, and changes in the types of lung cancer that are most common, the study authors argue that tiny ventilation holes in virtually all cigarettes sold today are creating a new health risk.

“The design of cigarette filters that have ventilation can make the cigarettes even more dangerous, because those holes can change how the tobacco burns, allow smokers to inhale more smoke and to think that the smoke is safer because it is smoother,” senior author Dr. Peter D. Shields from The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus told Reuters Health by email.

“This applies to all cigarettes, because almost all the cigarettes on the market have the holes, not just the ones that used to be called lights and ultra-lights,” he noted.

Although rates of lung cancer in the population have fallen with declines in smoking overall, rates of lung cancer among smokers have risen significantly, the researchers point out. And the type of lung cancer associated with smoking has also shifted since the 1950s.

Rates of adenocarcinoma of the lung, the lung cancer most associated with smoking, have more than quadrupled in men and increased eight-fold in women along with changes in the design and composition of cigarettes since the 1950s, the researchers write.

Shields and his team review the evidence linking cigarette filter ventilation to these increased rates of lung cancer in a report online 22 May in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Filter ventilation reduces the amount of tar in the cigarette smoke when tested on smoking machines, but the increased ventilation and slower tobacco burn result in more puffs per cigarette and more toxic cancer-causing chemicals being inhaled by smokers, they write.

“The use of the ventilation holes yields lower tar only on a machine,” Shields said. “Machines have nothing to do with actual exposures in humans. The holes let them actually inhale more smoke with more cancer-causing agents.”

Because of the claims of lower tar content, though, smokers develop the false belief that a lower tar cigarette is a healthier cigarette, Shields’ team writes.

Increased filter ventilation also results in smaller particle size, allowing more smoke to reach vulnerable parts of the lung.

Moreover, even though machine-measured tar and nicotine levels have decreased over time, there has been no appreciable change in daily nicotine intake among smokers over the past 25 years, they write.

“The evidence shows that more modern cigarettes are more risky for lung cancer,” Shields said. “There are reasons in addition to the holes that also can contribute to the increasing risk, but one does not preclude the other.”

Cigarette designs could and should be regulated to address all the possible reasons, Shields said.

“The holes have no health benefits; they serve no health purpose,” he explained. “They do not lower tar delivery to people. So, if they have the potential harm, the FDA can act, even if the science is not perfect. The FDA can require cigarette manufacturers to make filters without the holes. This is easy and they are doing it for some brands already.”

Having filters may indeed be safer, Shields clarified. “This study is about the holes on the filters. We are not saying to remove filters, only to change their designs by removing the holes on the filters.”

“The FDA now has the authority to require the elimination of filter ventilation, as ventilation does not serve any public health purpose and instead provides a false promise of reduced risk,” the study team concludes.

“This single action for banning filter ventilation by the FDA is scientifically justified, and within its mandate to improve the public health,” they write.

There is some precedent for the ban Shields and colleagues propose, Jonathan M. Samet and Lilit Aladadyan, both from the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Institute for Global Health in Los Angeles, write in an accompanying editorial.

The evidence gathered by Shields’ team seems strong enough to support FDA action, and “given a lack of evidence for countervailing harms, ending filter ventilation could be a ‘no regrets’ action that would benefit public health,” they write.

PMI test marketing ‘flat coil’ e-liquid technology

Philip Morris International is test marketing a product employing new technology described by PMI as a mesh patch to heat e-liquids that eliminates manual assembly of wick-and-coil designs that are the industry standard.

http://www.tobaccojournal.com/PMI_test_marketing_%C3%82%E2%80%98flat_coil%C3%82%E2%80%99_e-liquid_technology.54255.0.html

PMI’s technology allows full automation in contrast to nearly all e-cigarette products that require wicks to be hand-threaded through heating coils, the company said in its latest Scientific Update for Smoke-free Products. A flat-coil product has been undergoing test marketing under the MESH brand in Birmingham, UK, since late last year, PMI said.

“The trick was to design a flat alternative to the original coil-and-wick technology that provided a comparable user experience to traditional e-cigarette products,” PMI said. “By designing a flat coil, a machine could place a flat wick on top of it, inject e-liquid into an adjacent cavity, and neatly seal it all in a self-contained cartridge.”

UAE imposes heavy taxes on tobacco and fizzy drinks

DUBAI: The UAE Ministry of Finance has announced a selective tax of 100 percent on tobacco and energy drinks and 50 percent on carbonated beverages on Tuesday.

https://www.geo.tv/latest/143063-uae-imposes-heavy-taxes-on-tobacco-and-fizzy-drinks

It was announced in a tweet of UAE Ministry of Finance after the meeting of the board directors of Federal Tax Authority (FTA) that was chaired by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.

It is also stated that new taxes will be applied in the fourth quarter of this year.

International transportation, commodities and exports, health and education services, gold imported for investment purposes are exempted from taxes.

Last year, UAE President Shaikh Khalifa had issued a decree setting up the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) which is responsible for setting up and maintaining records on taxpayers and taxes paid. The authority will also issue guidelines and clarifications to taxpayers on matters related to federal taxes and related fines.

The UAE would also implement tax over the next few years including a Gulf Cooperation Council -wide VAT tax, which will start in 2018.

The list of items that will come under new taxation system would be utility bills (water, electricity, internet), tobacco, soft and energy drinks, watches, electronics, entertainment, smartphones, jewelry and luxury cars.

The UAE expects revenue through only tobacco products alone to be Dh2 billion annually.

Big Tobacco is losing the fight to stop plain packaging of cigarettes

Dr Enrico Bonadio, a Senior Lecturer in the City Law School, says the tobacco industry’s bid to avoid plain packaging by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights, is being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2017/may/big-tobacco-is-losing-the-fight-to-stop-plain-packaging-of-cigarettes

You may already have seen the tobacco packs currently sold in the UK: a dark, murky green colour with large graphic health-warning images and scary messages aimed at informing current and potential smokers about the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption. They have no colourful logos, with the brand name just displayed in small characters in a standard font.

These packs are now required by new regulations which entered into force in May 2016. There has been a one-year transitional period for the sell-through of old stock – and from May 20 2017 all tobacco products on sale in the UK must comply with the new rules.

The legislative move has been recommended to all countries by the World Health Organisation to reduce the attractiveness of smoking and eventually reduce consumption. Australia was the first country to introduce such strict packaging requirements in December 2012. France and, of course, the UK have since followed suit.

It follows significant research that shows these new standardised cigarette packs are much less appealing to consumers – and young people especially.
The industry’s legal defeats

No wonder tobacco companies have challenged the measure in the courts. They have argued that it is useless, too harsh – and is an infringement of their fundamental and intellectual property rights, especially trademarks. Yet, their claims are based on weak arguments and have been rejected by both the High Court of England and Wales and the Court of Appeal.

The tobacco industry has faced numerous courtroom defeats of late. Last year Uruguay won a landmark case against the Swiss giant Philip Morris International. The company had sued the Latin American state after it introduced two measures affecting tobacco packaging and trademarks. These were mandatory graphic health warnings covering 80% of cigarette packets (a measure very close to plain packaging) and the obligation for tobacco companies to adopt a single presentation for their brands, dropping for example the “gold” and “blue” descriptors, that could lead smokers to believe one variant was safer than another.

The fact that the courts sided with Uruguay would have been encouraging to other countries aiming to introduce controls on tobacco packaging. And even greater encouragement came recently from a World Trade Organisation ruling which deemed that the plain packaging requirements introduced by Australia as compliant with international trade and intellectual property rules – and are therefore a legitimate public health measure.

The decision has not been officially announced, but a confidential draft of the interim ruling was leaked to the media and the final decision is expected later this year. The Australian measure had been challenged at the WTO tribunal by Cuba, Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Honduras, countries whose economies strongly rely on the tobacco industry.

A domino effect

This is a blow to the industry. The short-term consequences of the WTO ruling – Imperial Tobacco’s shares fell more than 2% after the decision was leaked – reflects the longer-term danger that this ruling poses. It will likely convince other states to introduce plain packaging legislation without fear of violating international trade and intellectual property laws. It basically gives them a green light by removing the regulatory chilling effect that such legal action has produced on countries that wanted to follow Australia’s example.

After all, more and more countries seem interested in adopting standardised packaging. As well as France and the UK, Ireland and Norway will introduce packaging restrictions later in 2017, and Hungary in 2018. Many other states are debating similar measures, including New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Slovenia, Belgium, Singapore and Thailand.

So, a legislative trend has started which aims to restrict the ability of tobacco manufacturers to make their products appealing to consumers by using eye-catching words, logos or ornamental features on the pack. And attempts by Big Tobacco to stop it by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights are being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

Ultimately, the industry needs to accept the fact that its ability to use fancy brands, especially on packaging, may be reduced by governments for public health reasons. Also that a company’s property rights are not absolute or untouchable. Not only does it not have enough legal basis – as has now been confirmed by several courts and tribunals – but it also disregards legitimate policies adopted by democratically elected governments.

Rise in Lung Adenocarcinoma Linked to ‘Light’ Cigarette Use

A new study shows that so-called “light” cigarettes have no health benefits to smokers and have likely contributed to the rise of a certain form of lung cancer that occurs deep in the lungs.

http://journals.lww.com/oncology-times/blog/onlinefirst/pages/post.aspx?PostID=1618

For this new study, researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center–Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC–James) and five other universities/cancer centers examined why the most common type of lung cancer, called adenocarcinoma, has increased over the past 50 years, rather than decreasing as smokers have been able to quit. Other types of lung cancer have been decreasing in relationship to fewer people smoking, but not lung adenocarcinoma. Because of this, lung adenocarcinoma is now the most common type of lung cancer.

Results confirm what tobacco-control researchers have suspected for years: There is no health benefit to high-ventilation (light) cigarettes–long marketed by the tobacco industry as a “healthier” option–and these cigarettes have actually caused more harm. Holes in cigarette filters were introduced 50 years ago and were critical to claims for low-tar cigarettes.

“This was done to fool smokers and the public health community into thinking that they actually were safer,” said Peter Shields, MD, Deputy Director of the OSUCCC–James and a lung medical oncologist. “Our data suggests a clear relationship between the addition of ventilation holes to cigarettes and increasing rates of lung adenocarcinoma seen over the past 20 years. What is especially concerning is that these holes are still added to virtually all cigarettes that are smoked today.”

The FDA was given the authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products through the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009. Current regulations ban tobacco companies from labeling and marketing cigarettes as “low tar” or “light.” Study authors, however, say that given this new data, the FDA should take immediate action to regulate the use of the ventilation holes, up to and including a complete ban of the holes.

“The FDA has a public health obligation to take immediate regulatory action to eliminate the use of ventilation holes on cigarettes,” added Shields. “It is a somewhat complicated process to enact such regulations, but there is more than enough data to start the process. We believe that such an action would drive down the use and toxicity of conventional cigarettes, and drive smokers to either quit or use less harmful products. There are some open questions about unintended consequences for enacting a ban, which provides for an important research agenda.”

A team made up of lung oncology, public health, and tobacco regulation researchers conducted a comprehensive, multi-faceted analysis of existing literature that included chemistry and toxicology studies, human clinical trials and epidemiological studies of both smoking behavior and cancer risk. They studied scientific publications in the peer-reviewed literature and internal tobacco company documents.

Researchers hypothesized that the higher incidence rates of lung adenocarcinoma were attributable to the filter ventilation holes, which allow smokers to inhale more smoke that also has higher levels of carcinogens, mutagens and other toxins.

“The filter ventilation holes change how the tobacco is burned, producing more carcinogens, which then also allows the smoke to reach the deeper parts of the lung where adenocarcinomas more frequently occur,” explained Shields.

To date, all the scientific evidence involves the adverse impact of adding ventilation, but not removing it. Additional research is needed to confirm that the addictiveness of the cigarette or toxic exposures from cigarettes would not increase with elimination of the ventilation holes. The OSUCCC–James and researchers at the University of Minnesota, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Virginia Tech, Harvard University and Medical University of South Carolina are conducting additional research to reconcile human biomarkers studies and smoke distribution/exposure in the lung.

Cigarette plain packaging is here – but a tobacco-free society looks a long way off

The UK has, almost, led the world when it comes to tackling one of the tobacco industry’s leading promotional tools.

https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/health/cigarette-plain-packaging-tobacco-rules-introduced/

 

Australia was the first country to require cigarettes to be sold in plain, standardised packaging in December 2012. The United Kingdom became the second to pass similar legislation, on 20 May last year, with Ireland and France following suit.

Companies had a year’s grace period where they could get rid of old stock that no longer complied with the rules. The new legislation means all wording on cigarette packs must be confined to a uniform size and designed on a muddy green background. There is to be no misleading information such as “low tar” or “organic”, and a ban on flavoured cigarettes and flavoured rolling tobacco

In the UK, standardised packaging was introduced in addition to implementation of the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). The UK’s legislation goes further than the EU requires on tobacco taxes, on advertising and on packaging and labelling – a case of the UK leading the continent rather than the other way around. This is one area of public health, at least, that Brexit will not effect.

“This is a measure the UK led Europe in introducing and the legislation was passed with strong cross party political support,” Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), told i: “It therefore seems highly improbable if not impossible that any incoming government would see fit to reintroduce brightly coloured and glitzy branding on cigarette packs.”

As far as what impact the measures will have, Ms Arnott says it is “too soon to tell” for the UK. “The impact was always expected to be longer-term as young people today have grown up with the glitzy packaging, but the evidence from Australia is that we can expect to see an increase in attempts to quit and decrease in smoking prevalence before too long.”

£2,000 a year

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) estimates that the average smoker will still spend more than £2,000 each year on tobacco, enough to fill a family’s food trolley for six months, buy a pair of Premier League season tickets, or even take the kids to Disneyland, the charity says. It believes price – new ‘minimum duty’ means cigarettes can not be sold for less than £8.82 – is one of the biggest deterrents to smoking and that the higher the price of a pack, the more people will quit.

Alison Cox, CRUK’s director of prevention, said: “Smoking is still the single largest preventable cause of death in the UK and kills around 96,000 people every year – this cannot continue. For decades the tobacco industry has got away with promoting their products in slickly designed packaging, which distracts from the true lethal and addictive nature of the contents.”

She said the full introduction of the new rules over the weekend “marks a momentous victory in the battle for a tobacco free future”.

She added: “Standardised packs will help protect the next generation from an addiction that kills around half of all regular smokers. But there’s still a lot more to do – there is a real opportunity for the next government to help the UK’s 9 million smokers quit for good.”

Big tobacco has already tried to get around the rules. The maker of Marlboro cigarettes had been by selling branded durable tins that look just like ordinary cigarette packets – taking advantage of the grace period. in the run-up to the change, Philip Morris distributed tin containers, the same size as a 10-pack of cigarettes, to shops around the country, including big chains such as Sainsbury’s, Londis and Budgens, with the apparent aim to allow consumers to use the tins as refills.

Plain packaging campaigner Alex Cunningham, the Labour MP for Stockton North said that the move was an “immature trick” and an attempt by the company to “retain” its branding. “I hope people will soon put them into their bins and they’ll find their way to the recycling centre,” he said.

‘This will save lives’

Smoking remains a leading cause of preventable death in the UK, accounting for around 80,000 deaths a year in England alone. The British Medical Association (BMA), which has lobbied in favour of standardised packaging for many years, said the new regulations are “a significant step forward and will save lives.”.

Professor Parveen Kumar, BMA board of science chair, said: “We know that children who recognise brand images including packaging, are far more likely to start smoking. Standardised packaging will help to eradicate this marketing power for tobacco companies, and will increase the impact of health warnings.

“We must not stop there though. Doctors want to see a tobacco-free society by 2035, and the BMA is calling on the next government to introduce a new ‘Tobacco Control Plan’, replacing the current, outdated strategy on smoking, and a ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco companies. This would generate funding to support smoking cessation programmes, and would see many more smokers kicking the habit.”